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how to plant really tiny seeds (like viola or basil or ....)?

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i am in the Pac NW so we usually start our plants in a greenhouse / on the kitchen window sill

i can well understand the value of those "seed tapes" - but i have pkgs of seeds. I puff up those peat pot things (buy them dry, add water - poof!)

so i am trying to start indoors in those pots - some viola (edible flowers in salads etc) - and basil - and as you know - the seeds are microscopic

so i have tiny pots that have now sprouted about 10 violas each - they are at the 2-leaf stage.

how do i separate them out?

any articles in Fine Gardening online (I DON'T have subscription - so free access would be great)

i realize i should have been more careful about how many seeds in each peat pot

so how do you plant those really tiny seeds?

thank you!

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  1. Since viola reseeds itself when I start the plants myself I simply strew a few seeds on the surface of the potting soil and water from below. Let the peat pots stand in a little water till you see the surface damp. Do the same with basil seeds. Use a magnifying glass if you have to.

    To take the seedlings out of the peat pots use a wooden skewer or other small gadget like a lobster pick. Carefully push the pick into the soil just a little, w the other hand very carefully pull Slightly on the top leaves. One needs a Very Gentle Touch. Have your larger sized seedling pot all ready and using the pick as a kind of spatula, repot the seedling. Gently push the soil around the seedling. Gently water...

    1. Actually I never had any trouble with Basil seeds. Just sow on the surface of damp mix, mist, and sprinkle lightly with vermiculite, mist again, cover or put in a plastic bag til they sprout, then out of the bag and under lights.

      For really tiny seeds like Nicotiana, experts advise mixing with fine sand before sowing. I never bothered with that either, Just took a pinch of seeds, hold several inches above a tray filled with mix, and wiggled my fingers to strew the seeds (unevenly) across the surface.

      When I do sow things too thickly, to transplant them I first wet the soil, then as Gio says, gently loosen the root zone (I use a fork) grasp a leaf and ease it out to transplant into a 6- or 9-cell pack.

      I don't use peat pots.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DonShirer

        Forgot to say that I also took a small jar and punched some holes in the lid with an icepick. Tried that with the sand&seed mixture. It worked about as well as the finger method.

        1. re: DonShirer

          I've read about using fine sand, too, but since I didn't have any on hand, I mixed tiny seeds with a bit of all purpose flour--was able to then see the seeds clearly, so didn't over-plant.

        2. Are the leaves true leaves, or those pre-leaf things that come straight out from the seeds (cotyledons)? I wait until the seedlings put out the first pair of true leaves before attempting to transplant.

          Sometimes if they are in a clump, I use a popsicle stick to gently scoop out the clump and lay it on the surface of the dirt, then gently tease apart the seedlings.

          For very tiny seeds I start them off in a small container, like a plastic one that strawberries come in. Sprinkle them over the surface and once they are ready, transplant to individual pots. I do not have a gentle hand so my survival rate is not that good - I always start & transplant more than I think I'll need!

          1. Sprinkle the seeds in a small dish and use tweezers to pick them up.

            1. I spread out only as many seeds as I think I will need on a paper plate, then pick them up and place them with the moistened end of a chop stick.